There’s a lot more that expats need to learn when they move to Ecuador than the language. Take, for example, etiquette.
My Cuencana friend Eloisa has some helpful advice for gringos when they interact socially with Ecuadorians. She also helps her Ecuadorian friends understand the weird habits of us gringos.
First, let’s talk party time.
“The gringos have a different idea of what is ‘fashionably late’ for showing up at a party than Ecuadorians do,” Eloisa says. “From what I can tell, half an hour late seems about right for norteamericanos and europeos. For us Ecuadorians, an hour to two hours late, or even later, is the norm. Showing up on time here is not only unfashionable, but considered rude.”
Then there’s the question of when to leave the party. Again, the standards are different. For gringos, Eloisa says, if hosts give an end-time, they are probably serious although there’s usually a little flexibility.
Remember back when, late in those blow-out Monday Night football games, when “Dandy Don” Meredith would crank up his rendition of Willie Nelson’s “Turn out the lights, the party’s over …”, with Howard Cosell snickering in the background? Well … think gringos.
On the other hand, Eloisa says party end-times are almost irrelevant among Ecuadorians. “If it says midnight on the invitation, it’s okay to stay until 4 or 5 a.m.,” she says.
Second: How about potluck and byob.
This is easy, says Eloisa. There’s no such thing at potluck dinner parties in Ecuador and, it would be considered the depths of incivility to ask guests to bring their own booze. “When Cuencanos host a party, it´s a matter of pride to provide everything, and to provide plenty of it,” she says.
She says that some locals actually like the gringo potluck concept but would never use it on their friends.
Third: Take your shoes off please.
Eloise says that the gringo request that guests take off their shoes at the doorstep is a real head-scratcher for Ecuadorians. “This isn’t too common, but those of us who go to a lot of gringo functions run into it sometimes,” she says.
Privately, Eloise says Ecuadorians call them “stinky gringo feet parties” (very rough translation). “The way we look at it, exposed feet, even with socks, don’t smell very good so why would you ask someone to take off their shoes?” she asks. “It surprises us almost as much as if they asked us to take off our pants. We understand it’s some sort of Oriental thing but Orientals smell better than gringos.” (She’s right. A recent study at UC-Davis found that Europeans and North Americans have the strongest, most unpleasant body odor of all people of earth.)
I understand the local objection to taking off shoes at social events. To me, it’s more of an hold hippie thing than an Oriental thing, but most of us have outgrown it. The stink issue is legitimate. (“Gee Liz, smells like you’re cooking up some sauerkrout.” “No, actually that’s Bob over in the corner airing out the pair of Argyles he bought on Seville Row in 1967.”)
Next week: The honest scoop on the Tranvía.
Please send tips, rumors and alt news concerning expats and Ecuadorians, no matter how outrageous, to Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org, “attn: Alice.” She will look into them, attempt to verify, and report items that are newsworthy or have entertainment value.